Volvo Ocean Race: Weather update for final approach to Cape Town

Published on November 3rd, 2014

(November 3, 2014) – The Volvo Ocean Race leaders are closing in on the finish of Leg 1 from Spain to South Africa. Now within 1,000 miles of Cape Town, Anderson Reggio – Navigational Support for Team Alvimedica – gives us insight on the weather and the wind the fleet will face over the next few days as they approach Cape Town…

Just two short weeks ago all seven boats were all within sight of one another rotating positions on the leaderboard constantly as they found their way down the coast of Africa. Then came the Cape Verde split, the Doldrums, the celebrated Equatorial crossings, and the battle for control in the South Atlantic.

Now here we sit less than 1,000 miles from the finish and the leading four boats are still shockingly close, closer than any four have ever been at this stage in the race. Four boats battling for the win after nearly 6,000 miles of sailing, four boats all projected to finish within mere minutes of one another, four boats focused intently on what one another is doing at each and every moment, four boats up front – and Team Alvimedica ready to pounce.

When looking at the weather greeting the teams as they approach the Leg One finish in Cape Town, there has been a lot of variation amongst the different models. These weather models are computerized projections, which base their calculations off two main inputs, accuracy of previous model runs and current weather observations.

Inherently there is some variation between weather model outputs due to differences amongst the algorithms used and the effects of those variations as the calculations project forward in time. This stretch of ocean exaggerates those differences due to such little observational data available for the input process. The South Atlantic is desolate with Tristan de Cunha one of only a few inhabited islands between Brazil and Cape Town. Hence, prior to this writing, it has proven difficult to state clearly what was going to happen.

It is almost with relief that we can finally say with confidence what will greet the fleet from here to the finish. The elusive South Atlantic frontal system – which everyone dove south to catch – has finally materialized and will be passing the fleet over the course of Monday into the early hours of Tuesday.

High winds, fast speeds, and big smiles will be the common theme across the fleet. Behind this will be the final area of light winds that the teams will have to traverse before settling into the SE breeze around the seasonal trough settled over South Africa. These winds, known as the “Cape Doctor,” will be in full force upon arrival.

A few key questions remain for the decision makers on board the boats. Will the frontal passage provide the lead pack enough momentum to carry them beneath the high and to the Cape Doctor winds? Will the light air behind the front trap any of the leaders, potentially giving Team Alvimedica a chance to capitalize on their northern split from the front pack? Will the light stuff provide enough of a slow period for either Mapfre or SCA to catch up? How everyone sets up for the final transitional period will determine their fate and ultimate finish position in Cape Town.

Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began Leg 1 on October 11, which takes the 7 teams 6478nm from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. ETA is Nov. 5-6. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. Final finish on June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Race website: http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html

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